The song of the week is 'I Still Write Your Name In The Sand' in the key of A. This song is from Mac Wiseman, a first-generation bluegrass singer who recorded with Bill Monroe, and sang harmony on a few of Flatt and Scruggs' earliest records.
Mac Wiseman - key of Db
The Osborne Brothers & Mac Wiseman - key of C
Lyrics & Phrasing
Notice that the lyrics are not exactly the same in both versions, and that the phrasing of the lyrics also differs between the two versions. The way I sing the song comes closer to the first version offered here. Please keep this in mind when singing harmony with me on the choruses.
The set of lyrics I use for the chorus is:
Oh! I love you my darling, how I love you.
If I talk, will you try to understand?
It's no matter how you treat me, I love you,
And I still write your name in the sand.
Del McCoury - key of B
Tim O'Brien - key of A
The chord progression for 'I Still Write Your Name In The Sand' is the most common of all chord progressions in bluegrass:
Other songs that have been played at this incarnation of the beginner/intermediate jam (Thursdays from Sept. 2015 to the present) that use the same progression include:
Bury Me Beneath The Willow
Wreck Of The Old '97
Ain't Nobody Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone
Hard Ain't It Hard
I'm On My Way Back To The Old Home
Cry, Cry Darlin' (verses)
White Dove (verses)
Rose Of Old Kentucky (verses)
A Memory Of You
Flint Hill Special (A & B Parts)
The intermediate jam has progressed to the point where, in most cases, relatively little time needs to be spent explaining/running through the chord progression of a song before playing a song that uses an uncommon progression. And, on the whole, the jam group is getting noticeably faster at identifying and finding 'off-chords' in songs: and not just the most common ones (2's, b7's, 6m's), but also some of the less frequently used 'off-chords' (e.g., 6's, 3's, 2m's).
['Off-chord' is an informal term for chords other than the 1, 4, and 5.]
However, the advantage of introducing songs that use such a familiar and commonplace chord progression as the 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow/I Still Write Your Name In The Sand' progression is that it frees up the jam group from the need to focus on catching on to the progression, thereby allowing everyone to focus more on other things that are also important for the continued progress of the jam: timing, feel, melody; and for harmony singers, lyrics and phrasing as well.
Here is a list of songs that use the 'Bury Me Beneath The Willow/I Still Write Your Name In The Sand' progression that I believe could be good song choices for people looking to introduce new songs into the jam (or, in a few cases, songs to reintroduce, revisit, or play more frequently):
Instrumentals that make use of the same progression include:
The song of the week is 'Fireball Mail' in the key of G.
Flatt & Scruggs - key of G, instrumental. The classic bluegrass version
Roy Acuff - key of A, the original sung version. Country/pre-Bluegrass
Earl Scruggs again - key of G (this time with his sons - not exactly a traditional bluegrass band, but good guitar and fiddle breaks here, plus a harmony back-up part played on the banjo behind the fiddle break)
Although Fireball Mail - originally a Roy Acuff song - does have lyrics (verses, no chorus), it was recorded by Flatt and Scruggs, on the Foggy Mountain Banjo album, as an instrumental featuring banjo and dobro; and it is through this recording more than any other that Fireball Mail has become a standard in the bluegrass repertoire.
Although I will lead Fireball Mail at the jam as an instrumental, I have included the lyrics for the first verse in the melody sheets, since some people find it easier to learn and/or remember a melody when they can associate a set of lyrics with it.
The chord progression used for 'Fireball Mail' on the Flatt & Scruggs recording is the standard progression for the song when played at bluegrass jams:
This is the same progression that is used to play 'Canaan's Land', 'Gathering Flowers From The Hillside', the verses of 'Feast Here Tonight', and (at our jam) the verses of 'I'm Gonna Sleep With One Eye Open')
However, unlike the four songs just mentioned, there is nothing in the melody of 'Fireball Mail' that requires changes from the 1 to the 5 chord. On the 7th, 8th, and 14th measures of Fireball Mail, the main melody note is the 5th note of the major scale (D note when in the key of G). This note is common to both the 1 (G) and the 5 (D) chord: G=GBD; D=DF#A. Furthermore, in playing his breaks, Scruggs completely ignores the changes to the 5 chord, choosing to play G and B notes around the D melody notes in the '5 chord' measures, rather than F# and A notes. This is especially noticeable in his up the neck break.
Although the melody only consists of 8 notes, the range of the melody spans almost one and a half octaves. This is an exceptionally wide range for a tune that was originally written as a vocal number. (Fireball Mail has the same range as another recent song of the week: 'Down In A Willow Garden', but unlike 'Down In A Willow Garden', the lowest note and the highest note in the melody are dwelt on rather than used merely in passing).
The melody notes for Fireball Mail, in ascending order of pitch, are (in the key of G): D,E,G,A,B,D,E,G (same as 'Down In A Willow Garden, when played in G). This means lots of open strings and 2nd fret notes on banjo and dobro, and lots of opportunities for unison slides/hammer-ons. Additionally, many of the G and D notes in the melody are held for a long time (a whole measure or longer) before the melody moves to the next note. All of these things make this tune particularly well suited to the banjo and the dobro, which helps to explain why 'Fireball Mail' is a favorite among many banjo and dobro players.
The song of the week is 'I Can't Feel At Home In This World Anymore' (a.k.a. 'This World Is Not My Home') in the key of G. This song was recorded by the Carter Family in 1931, and since that time has been recorded by numerous old-time, bluegrass, and country artists: some of the bigger names including Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Jim Reeves, Merle Haggard, and Ricky Skaggs.
Progression & Recordings
The chord progression I use for 'I Can't Feel At Home In This World Anymore' is:
Jim & Jesse - key of F
Martina McBride (with Ricky Skaggs) - key of D: not exactly a bluegrass version of the song, but it has good mandolin breaks in it, and is played at a tempo that I prefer.
...but, alternatives for the 2nd line of the progression that I have heard on records and at jams include
Blue Highway - key of G
And, in some versions, line 2 is played one of these ways for the verses of the song, and in a different way for the choruses, with breaks in some versions following the verse progression and in other versions following the chorus progression.
Compare these progressions with Prog. V6 on the Basic Chord Progressions Chart:
...and with the 3 most common chord progressions used for playing 'Leaning On The Everlasting Arms':
1144 1144 1144
1115 11155 1115
1144 1144 1144
11511 11511 1151
The 2 Chord
Notice in the versions of 'I Can't Feel At Home...' provided here how the harmony part or parts are affected by the presence or absence of the '2' chord in line 2 of the progression. For, unlike the 1,4, and 5 chords, the 2 chord has one note in it that is not part of the major scale. In the key of G, this note is a C#. (The notes of the G major scale are: G, A, B, C, D, E, and F#.) Relative to the G major scale, the number name for the C# note is #4, which is the same note as what would be called b5 (in the key of G: Db) in certain other contexts.
If you find it doesn't come naturally to you to go to the C# note on the 2 chord measure when singing a tenor harmony part for this song in the key of G, try playing the following scale on your instrument: G, A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G until your ear becomes accustomed to hearing the 4th note of this scale in the context of the whole scale. (This is known as the 'G Lydian Scale': in place of the '4' in the major scale, it has a '#4'. The G Lydian Scale has the same notes as the D Major Scale, i.e., it has one more sharp in it than what the G Major Scale has.) The notes of the G Lydian Scale are the safest notes to play on your instrument during '2' chord measures that come up in a song that is in the key of G.
An informal name for chords other than the 1,4,and 5 that you will sometimes hear in bluegrass circles is 'off-chords'. The '2' chord is one of the two most commonly used major 'off-chords' in traditional bluegrass. The other one is the 'b7' chord. If you have not already done so, I suggest immediately making it a point to memorize the '2' and 'b7' chords for each of the keys that come up at the jam. Remember that '2' is a whole-step higher than '1', and that 'b7' is a whole-step lower than '1':
b7 1 2
Key of G: F G A (A = A,C#,E.)
Key of A G A B (B = B,D#,F#.)
Key of Bb Ab Bb C (C = C,E,G.)
Key of B A B C# (C# = C#,E#,G#)
Key of C Bb C D (D = D,F#,A)
Key of D C D E (E = E,G#,B)
Key of E D E F# (F# = F#,A#,C#)
Key of F Eb F G (G = G,B,D)
In each case, the middle note of the three notes that make up the '2' chord is the #4 note, which when substituted in place of the 4th note of the Major Scale creates the Lydian Scale.
'2' & 'b7' Contrasted
Just as through experience with playing songs that have 1,4,and 5 chords in them, one learns to readily distinguish the sound of the progression 1-4-1 from the sound of the progression 1-5-1, and to detect when a chord is being played that is other than the 1, the 4, or the 5, so also, through experience with playing songs that have various 'off-chords' in them, one learns to be able to just as readily distinguish which 'off-chord' is being played. For starters, I suggest observing that songs that have only the '2' as an 'off-chord' in them tend to have a very different sounding type of melody than songs that have only the 'b7' as an off-chord in them.
Other songs with '2' chords that have been played at the jam include 'Homestead On The Farm' (a.k.a. 'I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home'), 'Cry Cry Darlin', 'Coleen Malone', 'Left Over Biscuits', Old Home Place' (also has a '3' chord in it), 'Earl's Breakdown', 'Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem', 'Eight More Miles To Louisville', Life Is Like A Mountain Railroad' (a.k.a. 'Life's Railway To Heaven'), 'Red Wing', and 'Salty Dog Blues' (also has a '6' chord in it.) Be sure not to confuse these with songs that have a 2m chord in them (e.g., 'Lonesome Feeling', 'Steel Rails', 'You Ain't Goin' Nowhere', 'Whiskey Before Breakfast', and 'Devil's Dream').
Compare a few of the songs that have '2' chords in them with some of the songs that have been played at the jam that have 'b7' chords in them (they are all easy to find on youtube):
Songs with b7 chords that have been played at the jam include 'Little Willie', 'Little Maggie', 'Red Haired Boy', 'Salt Creek', 'Old Joe Clark', 'Love Please Come Home', 'I Know You Rider' (also has a 'b3' chord in it), 'Cluck Old Hen', 'Over The Waterfall', 'Shady Grove' (minor key version: also has a b3 chord in it), and 'What Child Is This' (minor key: also has a b3 in it, and in many versions, also a b6 chord).
Another thing you might notice is that while the 'b7' chord is more often than not sandwiched between '1' chords, just like the '4' and '5' chord most often are, the '2' chord is almost always followed immediately by the '5' chord.
[Those of you who have studied music theory might point out that the '2' chord is functioning here as a 'secondary dominant', and some might not like it that I call it the '2' chord, but that it should rather be called 'the 5 of the 5'. (Rough translation: the chord in question has the same relation to the 5 chord that the 5 chord - a.k.a. the 'dominant' - has to the 1 chord: the '2' pushes to the 5 in the progression, which in turn pushes and resolves to the 1.) But, for our purposes here, and for the sake of simplicity, I call 'the 5 of the 5' the '2 chord'.]
New Song Lists
In the attachments I have included the new list of songs that we will play from for the first half of the evening at the Intermediate Jam for the next 3 months. This list replaces the list that we used for the jams held from January through March of this year. There are two versions of the list included here: a one page larger print version that simply lists the titles of the songs, and a two page smaller print version that gives the chord progressions for the songs in addition to the titles.
The song of the week will be 'Little Darling Pal Of Mine' in the key of G.
Ralph Stanley II - key of G
Flatt & Scruggs - key of G, instrumental (Foggy Mountain Banjo album)
Bobby & Sonny Osborne (together with many other well established bluegrass artists of the older generations: how many can you recognize?) - key of G, instrumental, live performance/jam
Flatt & Scruggs - key of G, instrumental (live TV performance: banjo and bass breaks only)
The Carter Family - key of E (the original recording of the song: 1928)
The Stanley Brothers - key of G
The chord progression for Little Darling Pal Of Mine is:
This is Prog. V10 on the basic progressions chart. Be careful not to confuse this progression with the similar and much more common W10 progression that is used to play Gold Watch & Chain, Back Up And Push, Way Down Town, This Land Is Your Land, Rubber Dolly, the B-Part of Red Wing, and the choruses of Nellie Kane and How Mountain Girls Can Love. The two progressions differ from each other only in the first measure of line 4. The last line of W10 is 5511 (same as the second line of both V10 and W10), whereas the last line of V10 is 1511.
The melody for Little Darling Pal Of Mine is similar to the melody for This Land Is Your Land. It was from Little Darling Pal Of Mine that Woody Guthrie drew his inspiration for writing the melody for This Land Is Your Land. The similarity of the melody of Little Darling Pal Of Mine to that of a more well known song that uses the W10 progression may make it difficult at first for some to consistently remember to play the V10 progression instead of the W10 progression for Little Darling Pal Of Mine until they have played the song a number of times.
Little Darling Pal Of Mine has been recorded and performed many times by bluegrass artists as an instrumental. When played as an instrumental, it is often used as a banjo-feature tune. However, the original recorded version of the song (by the Carter Family) that many of the first and second generation bluegrass artists learned the tune from, was a sung version, and some bluegrass artists have recorded sung versions of the song. At jams, I prefer to sing the song, rather than to lead it as an instrumental.
The most well known banjo breaks for Little Darling Pal Of Mine are the two breaks that Earl Scruggs plays on the Foggy Mountain Banjo album. Both of these breaks stick very close to the melody, as does the first fiddle break that Scruggs plays a harmony backup to that is prominent in the mix.
Both Flatt & Scruggs versions provided here include bass breaks. In sung versions of the song, it is uncommon for a bass break to be played, but I like to offer the bass a break when I sing the song at jams.
Have a happy Easter.